Combating Climate Change: EU Committee Votes to Cut Biofuels Goal

A committee of the European Parliament has voted to cut the EU's target for using traditional biofuels for road transport by 2020. The move has been welcomed by environmental and aid groups concerned that the growth in biofuels has been boosting food prices and causing deforestation.

A worker in Guatemala cuts sugar cane to make biofuel.
REUTERS

A worker in Guatemala cuts sugar cane to make biofuel.

They had been hailed as the answer to the world's climate change problem but enthusiasm for biofuels has waned in recent months.

Now the European Union seems to be backing away from its ambitious targets to use crop-based biofuels for 10 percent of transport needs by 2020.

An important panel of European Union lawmakers voted on Thursday to reduce the EU's target for using traditional crop-based biofuels following criticism from environmental groups that biofuels from grains and oil seeds lead to rising food prices and deforestation.

The European Parliament's industry committee voted to cut to 6 percent from 10 percent the target for using traditional biofuels in road transport by 2020.

The biofuels target is part of an ambitious climate change package the 27 EU leaders agreed on in 2007 to cut carbon dioxide emissions. The overall aim is for the EU to draw 20 percent of all its energy from renewable sources by 2020 -- up from 8.5 percent now.

The industry committee backed the overall 10-percent biofuels target but voted that at least 40 percent of it be achieved with electricity or hydrogen from renewable sources or second-generation biofuels from waste.

That would leave just 6 percent coming from traditional biofuels. The reduction in the target could hit biofuels exporters such as Brazil, Malaysia and Indonesia.

The decision is expected to serve as the parliament's position in talks with the 27 EU member states on the final shape of the legislation.

Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe, said the vote "recognizes the serious problems associated with the large scale use of biofuels."

"Using crops to feed cars is a false solution to our climate change problems and could lead to irreversible loss of wildlife and misery for millions of people in the South," he said.

cro -- with wire reports

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